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What is Betrayal Trauma and How is It Treated?

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Most people tend to trust their loved ones with their lives. But what happens when a spouse, partner, close friend, or family member betrays you? For many, such an experience would be devastating. Not only does it leave deep emotional wounds, a hurtful experience like this can be difficult to process and cause major trust issues moving forward. Yet sadly, betrayal trauma can happen when we least expect it. And when it does, it’s important to pursue betrayal trauma recovery so you can achieve long-term healing. 

What is Betrayal Trauma? 

Betrayal trauma is the emotional pain associated with being betrayed by someone you trusted. Consequently, the closer you are to the person who betrayed you, the more betrayal trauma you’ll experience. Not only do you feel pain as a result of this trauma, you may also begin to question your own judgment. 

This betrayal can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Spouses or partners
  • Parents, caregivers, siblings, or children
  • Close friends, coworkers, or peers
  • Employers or other significant institutions

 

The concept of betrayal trauma was originally developed by Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Freyd created the term betrayal trauma theory” to explain the type of trauma you experience when someone you depend on to survive violates your trust or well-being. Freyd observed that if you’re betrayed by this kind of person, you may ignore, forget, or block out the resulting trauma while you continue to rely on this individual for safety and security.

While betrayal trauma can occur in any instance where your trust is broken, there are a number of common situations that can result in this type of trauma. Infidelity and porn or sex addiction can be typical causes of betrayal trauma between spouses or romantic partners (such as finding out your husband is addicted to porn). Neglect, manipulation, dishonesty, or abuse can also lead to betrayal trauma between spouses, caretakers, or family members. Even workplace harassment from a supervisor can lead to betrayal trauma

When you experience betrayal trauma through a single event or through recurring episodes over the years, it’s easy to feel frightened or helpless. This resulting trauma can impact your brain, causing you to continuously feel fearful or unsafe around others and unsure if you can ever trust anyone again. 

Betrayal Trauma Symptoms

Trauma’s impact can look different depending on each individual. But betrayal trauma symptoms can typically manifest as both physical and psychological signs. Betrayal trauma symptoms can even take on the same symptoms as PTSD, shares the National Library of Medicine. If you’re experiencing any of the following, you may be struggling with betrayal trauma:

  • Feeling helpless or incapable of changing your situation
  • Insomnia or sleeplessness
  • Feeling like you’re in a fog or “out of it”
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Hypersensitivity to the things or people who remind you of your traumatic experience
  • Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares related to your betrayal
  • Mood swings
  • Denial
  • Social withdrawal
  • Developing co-occurring disorders like drug or alcohol addiction

Healing from Betrayal Trauma

When you’ve been struggling with the fallout of betrayal trauma, healing from it may seem unlikely. But betrayal trauma recovery is possible with the right approach. Often, this begins with recognizing the source of your betrayal. Acknowledging and not ignoring the fact that you’ve experienced betrayal trauma can help you begin to process your trauma and set up boundaries to protect yourself from any further harm in the future. 

Healing from betrayal trauma also requires prioritizing your individual needs. This starts with avoiding placing blame for the experience on yourself. Remember, it’s not your fault that this betrayal happened to you. In this healing process, it’s important to focus on your own self-care. Make sure the basics are covered, like eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, making time for exercise, and getting adequate sleep. Schedule time for activities that give you comfort and joy as well to help you avoid stress. 

In order to achieve true betrayal trauma recovery, you also need people by your side who can support you along the way. A loved one you can still trust can be a really helpful listening ear and source of encouragement during this time. However, many suffering from betrayal trauma will seek the help of a mental health professional to help them overcome their struggles. A therapist who specializes in trauma-informed care can help you process the root causes of your trauma and learn how your body and mind have responded to these traumatic experiences. With their help, you can also recognize your trauma triggers and develop healthier coping skills for the future.

Access Holistic Betrayal Trauma Therapy at Integrative Life Center

With the right betrayal trauma therapy, you can become more empowered and confident in your ability to cope with your emotions, make judgments, and trust others. More importantly, you can learn to have compassion for yourself, finding peace of mind and long-term healing from your betrayal trauma in the process.

At Integrative Life Center here in Nashville, TN, we take a comprehensive, holistic approach to betrayal trauma therapy. That means we prioritize the underlying causes of your trauma, as well as address any co-occurring disorders you may have as part of our dual diagnosis treatment capabilities. Understanding that no one’s betrayal trauma experience is the same, we personalize our trauma treatment to meet your unique needs through a variety of evidence-based traditional and experiential therapies. 

If the trauma is tied to intimacy disorders, we provide specialized sex addiction treatment and porn addiction treatment for spouses or romantic partners responsible for the betrayal. And our sister clinic, the Begin Again Institute, offers a betrayal trauma partner intensive program for partners of sex or porn addicts as well. 

If you’re ready to achieve lasting recovery from your betrayal trauma, we can help at Integrative Life Center. To get started, contact us today.

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